1999-2006 - The Greatest Show on Turf

Steven Jackson: The best during the worst era

Photo credit: Footballscoop.com.

The Greatest Show on Turf was in full swing after the 1999 season and the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV victory. In 2002, the St. Louis Rams made their second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons but lost to the emerging New England Patriots. In 2003, quarterback Kurt Warner lost his starting position to backup quarterback Marc Bulger. The Rams were 12-4 that season and lost a divisional playoff game to the Carolina Panthers 23-29. Warner was traded to the New York Giants in 2004 and the Greatest Show on Turf was slowly dismantled. The ensuing 2004-2016 seasons brought a new era of mediocrity and losing seasons, reminiscent of most of the 1990s.

There was one shining star in the St. Louis Rams offense during the 2004-2012 seasons. He was a backfield standout who broke the franchise all-time leading rushing record. Immediately upon arrival, running back Steven Jackson propelled the Rams’ ground game to superstardom. He was the most consistent producer on the offense during his nine seasons with the Rams. His power and speed combination were dazzling, but Jackson’s rushing numbers were just as impressive.

Dominant from the Beginning

Steven Jackson started his football career in Las Vegas, Nevada at El Dorado High School. While carrying the ball for the Sun Devils, Jackson scored 81 touchdowns and had over 6,300 yards rushing. As a senior in 2000, he helped carry El Dorado all the way to the Nevada High School Football State Championship, but they lost to Reno’s McQueen High School.

Jackson played collegiate ball at Oregon State University where he ran for 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns in 36 games. He also caught six touchdown passes and had one touchdown on a kick return.  Returning to his hometown in December 2003 for the Las Vegas Bowl, Jackson racked up five touchdowns in a 55-14 victory over the University of New Mexico Lobos. He entered the NFL Draft as a junior and the Rams drafted Jackson in 2004.

An Incredible Pro Career

Jackson saw immediate success with the Rams as a backup to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. In 2004, he had 134 carries for 673 yards and 4 touchdowns along with earning franchise Rookie of the Year honors. Even with an 8-8 record, the Rams made it to the playoffs in a divisional round matchup against the Atlanta Falcons but lost, 17-47.

Jackson secured the starting role over Faulk in 2005.  That season, he added a total of 297 touches for 1,366 yards and 10 touchdowns (including two touchdown receptions). Faulk retired in 2006 and Jackson witnessed the breakup of the rest of the Greatest Show on Turf. Wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt left the Rams in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Bruce signed with the San Francisco 49ers and Holt signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

From 2005 to 2012, Jackson broke 1,000 yards rushing per season. His most productive year was 2006. He added 346 carries for 1,528 yards and 13 touchdowns. One of those is a career long 59-yard touchdown run in a 41-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Jackson also had 90 catches for 806 yards and three touchdowns. That includes a career long 64-yard touchdown reception in a 37-31 win over the Washington Redskins.

In 2009, Jackson had his second-best rushing season with 1,416 yards. The Rams had a 1-15 record that season, a franchise worst in 47 years.

The Rams earned no more than eight wins between 2007 and 2012. Jackson was the most consistent offensive producers. He opted out of his contract in 2013 and joined the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent where he played for two seasons. Jackson was released and then picked up by the New England Patriots at the tail end of their 2015 season.

Jackson rushed for 10,138 yards and 56 touchdowns in his nine-year career with the Rams, including 407 receptions for 3,324 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Greatest Running Back in Rams History?

It can be debated that other Rams running back greats like Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson are the greatest in the franchise. Faulk has one Super Bowl win in two appearances.  From 1999 to 2005, he was also a part of a Rams franchise that earned three division titles and five playoff berths. The Rams were 70-42 during his tenure. Faulk totaled 11,030 yards and 85 touchdowns in his career with the franchise.

Dickerson set the rookie single-season rushing record with 1,808 yards in 1983. He also broke the overall single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards in 1984. He totaled 8,157 yards and 58 touchdowns in five seasons with the Rams.

Jackson may not have the scoring prowess of Faulk in the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf era or the rookie numbers of Dickerson, but he is a beacon of light in the dark years that followed. He suffered through three head coaches and two interim head coaches. He also did not have the supporting cast of previous great ball carriers. Jackson certainly earns a ranking in the top three Rams running backs of all time.

Jackson was recently honored at the Legends Ceremony during the 2019 Rams Training Camp, Jackson signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Ram. This is fitting for arguably one of the greatest running backs in franchise history and one of the most underrated in the NFL.

Sources: Maxpreps.comNFL.com, Pro-football-reference.com, Sports-reference.com/cfb/

You can follow Erik Ho on Twitter @EHoinSDLVLA. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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